Sunday 19 May 2019

Judge rules out State indemnity over mobile licence award

Tim Healy

The State is not entitled to an indemnity and contribution from a telecommunications company to any loss that might result from an action over the awarding of the country's second mobile phone licence in 1996, the High Court has ruled.

Ms Justice Carmel Stewart granted BT Communications Ireland, formerly Esat Telecommunications, an order striking out notices for such indemnity and contribution made by the Minister for Public Enterprise and the State.

It would arise if businessman Declan Ganley, Comcast International Holdings, Ganley International and GCI win an action they have taken over the awarding of the second mobile phone licence, a competition in which their Cellstar consortium was an unsuccessful bidder.

The case was originally against the Minister, the State, BT, businessman Denis O'Brien, and former minister Michael Lowry TD.

In 2013, the Ganley/Comcast group sought to amend their statement of claim but BT refused to consent to this. BT then sought to have the Ganley/Comcast claim struck out for failure to disclose a reasonable cause of action.

In 2014, the High Court dismissed the claim against BT on consent and Ganley/Comcast was then allowed to amend its statement of claim without objection from the other defendants. Since then, Mr O'Brien has withdrawn similar indemnity and contribution notices against BT.

The State defendants said they were not prepared to do the same and BT then applied to have the State's notices struck out. BT submitted that its role in the 1996 tendering process was limited to preparatory work including the acquisition and development of transmission sites.

Irish Independent

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